As members of the priesthood, Zachariah and his wife Elizabeth were celebrities; the birth of their first son was no minor event, it was practically the talk of the town. Needless to say, the circumcision ceremony held in the Jerusalem temple was well attended and drew the crowds. Everybody knew that Zachariah had not spoken in a long time, and rumor had it that their child was special because of the unusual circumstances leading up to Elizabeth’s pregnancy.
Then, in the middle of the circumcision ceremony, there was confusion. It was tradition that the first male child carried on his father’s name; “Zachariah” would have been the logical name choice. But then Elizabeth interfered; she insisted that their son’s name was supposed to be “John”. Immediately the attention turned to her husband Zachariah.
For the past nine months Zachariah had witnessed his wife’s and his visiting niece Mary’s pregnancy, both announced by angels, both a miracle. He had doubted God’s messenger, and he had been silenced by God because of it. For the time being, no word came out of his mouth. His predicament, however, gave him plenty of time to contemplate, which seemed to have softened his heart; as a result Zachariah rose up to the occasion a much humbler man; and when publicly addressed with the question of how to name his son, His answer on the writing tablet was very clear: “John”, just as God’s angel had requested in their earlier encounter.
It was then and there that God broke his silence, and the first words coming out of Zachariah’s mouth were heartfelt praise. In his prophetic words he addressed Mary’s son first. It was only in his closing remarks that he turned his attention to his firstborn (Luke 1:76):
“And you, my little son, will be called the prophet of the Most High, because you will prepare the way for the Lord.”
Zachariah’s transformation is a miracle in its own right and illustrates how God can profoundly change a person. Entrusting our hearts into His care, God is able to give us a new perspective – while turning our life around in the process.